Fandom: The Fast and Furious
Characters: Dom, Brian, Mia, Rico, Tego, Leon, Rome and minor original characters
Spoilers: All four movies
Beta: The forever amazing souleswanderer and fantastic raynedanser.
Disclaimer: I own nothing related to Fast and Furious and no money was made from writing this story.
Summary: Dom has questions. He hopes Brian has answers.
A/N: A massive thank you to raynedanser for chatting with me and getting me unstuck for the corner I thought I'd written myself into. Also, I apologize for the lengthy delay between chapters. Thanks to everyone for their patience.
Brian jerked awake, sitting up as the light of the afternoon filtered through the cheap, dingy blinds. Sweat covered his body as he glanced around the room.
“You’re losing it, O’Connor,” he muttered. He’d only been here for a little over a week. Racing and doing the nightlife thing. Being seen and dropping his name. Several beautiful women and a few men had already offered him a place to stay and, of course, a quick fuck. With every proposition, he’d smiled, said something complimentary and generally flattering, and retreated to his hotel room.
He used to be better at this. The ability to shift and evade, to change his demeanor and attitude to be whatever the situation required used to flow through his body without any premeditated thought, and now he just felt tired. The hours he was keeping probably wasn’t helping either. He still did it, his chameleon act, but his heart wasn’t in it. Unfortunately, he’d left that in the Toretto household.
At this moment, Brian would have given anything for Verone to walk through his hotel room door so he could end it. Right now. He stared at the door that stubbornly remained closed.
His stomach grumbled its dislike of the whole situation, and Brian rolled out of bed. He needed to find some food. He glanced at the large amount of bank notes scattered across the table. Over the last seven days he’d made more than enough money racing to pay Tej back for his services and the car and to cover his expenses for the next two weeks if he didn’t race again. Two days ago he’d mailed double the cost for the car and add-ons to Tej’s shop.
There were downsides to winning all the time. He’d learned that the hard way in Miami. If it hadn’t been for Tej’s organized races and late night phone calls, he wouldn’t have made a dime. The last couple of days people weren’t as quick to challenge him. Luckily, Cancun was filled with tourists and people who didn’t have anything better to do with their money than to drop it on a street race that they had no hope of winning, at least not while he was driving.
Brian showered quickly and stopped in front of the mirror, wiping his hand across the foggy glass. He studied himself silently and came to the unsettling, but not unsurprising realization that he looked like shit. Still, that didn’t matter, but he’d see this through to whatever end. He owed Mia and Dom that. Hell, he owed Rome, too. Yeah, Rome had gone with him of his own volition and the FBI had cleared him as payment, but that wasn’t why Rome went. Sure, Rome was a lot of talk, a lot of empty threats and testosterone, but he’d gone because Brian had asked him. Their past was checkered with distrust and mistakes, but Rome had been there when Brian needed him. Rome might have said differently, have acted differently, but Brian knew the truth. Rome had been a good friend to him.
It had been over a week since Brian had disappeared in the middle of the night. It had been over a week without a sign or a trace of their wayward friend. It had been over a week since Dom had had a decent night of sleep.
“Got anymore of that chicken?” Rome asked, glancing at Mia.
“You need to see a doctor,” Leon mused. “You must have a hole in your stomach or something. I’ve never seen anyone eat as much as you.”
Rome dropped the chicken bone on his plate and shrugged. “Just hungry. That’s all.” Mia slid the serving platter across the table in Rome’s direction.
Dom glared at a spot over Rome’s head. He couldn’t do this anymore. He couldn’t sit here and do nothing. For some reason he’d thought after Rome arrived, they’d take off for parts unknown and track down Brian’s sorry ass, finish whatever he’d started out to do together, and then Dom would drag him home for a proper talk. Never in Dom’s life had he wanted to talk to someone as badly as he wanted to talk to Brian. Well, talk might not be the right word. There would talking after Dom had wrapped his hands around Brian’s scrawny neck and shook him until he turned blue or at least told him what the hell he was playing at. There might be a punch or two thrown in just for good measure.
Dom had thought that after Rome arrived, they’d formulate some great rescue plan and storm off to take back what had been taken from them. Unfortunately, they had no idea where to start looking. For all they knew, Brian wasn’t even in Mexico anymore.
“How’d you think he’s gonna find him?” Leon said. They’d discussed it before, many times, but no one seemed to know how Brian was going to locate Verone.
Mia groaned, pushing her plate away and crossing her arms over chest. “The feds probably gave him information.”
“If they’d done that, they could have sent their own lackeys to find him. They got people who do that shit for a living,” Rome muttered. “They ain’t got a fuckin’ clue where he’s at.”
“So why do they think Brian can do it?” Mia asked. It was the worst sense of déjà vu. How many times were they going to have the same conversation?
Rome glared at the chicken on his plate, for once his ferocious appetite evading him. “’Cause Verone will be looking for him, too.”
“Verone hasn’t tried that hard to find you,” Dom muttered.
Rome looked at him, his eyes cold. “Sloppy seconds.” Dom leaned forward, their eyes matched in a calculated glare. There was far more meaning etched in those two words.
“What does that mean?” Leon said. He kicked the table far too abruptly for it to have been an accident and muttered an unconvincing apology when the two men slowly turned to stare at him.
“Verone ain’t stupid. It was Brian’s plan, his show, and I was just along for the ride.” Rome sprawled in the chair, his boneless sprawl not as causal as he’d have liked it to be. “I’ll never forget his eyes.”
“Verone’s?” Mia asked.
Rome shook his head. “Brian’s.” The pause at the table was heavy, as everyone tried to compare Brian, their Brian, with the cold hearted cop who’d seen more in his short life than should ever be allowed. “When Verone was cuffed, Brian just stared at him. Bleeding and hurt, but that stare. I’ll never forget it. Brian knew it wasn’t over.”
Dom knew that look. Cold. Like nothing could touch him. Like he could take on the world. Hell, maybe he had or maybe he was.
“How long have you been friends?” Dom asked suddenly.
If Rome was taken back by the question, he didn’t show it. “Long time” – he shrugged – “since we were kids.”
“And you don’t know what he would do next?” Accusation and frustration weren’t concealed as Dom glared at the lounging man. Mia caught Leon’s gaze, this had been coming since Rome arrived, tension simmering just below the surface.
“I don’t hear you coming up with any good ideas,” Rome growled.
“I haven’t been his friend since grade school!”
Rome pushed away from the table, freeing his legs if he needed to get up quickly. “The way I see it, you ain’t been his friend at all.” The gauntlet had been thrown.
“This isn’t helping,” Mia said, her voice gentle as if she could verbally ease the tension.
“I never asked him for help,” Dom said, his voice like ice.
Rome laughed without any real humor. “You never had to ask. Bri can read you better than you can read yourself.” His gaze shifted around the table. “All of you.” Rome’s heavy eyes weren’t accusatory or particularly violent. He was simply speaking the truth, like he’d been there before, like on some level he was still there.
Mia shook her head. “That’s not true.”
The corner of Rome’s mouth tilted up. “Ain’t it? What do you want more than anything else in the world?”
She froze, her hand hovering over napkin. “To finish school.”
Rome nodded before shifting his gaze to Leon. “What about you? What’d you want?”
Leon stared at his hands, his heart pounding against his chest. “To go home.” It was obvious that home meant was wherever Dom was.
Rome’s eyes traveled to Dom, but he didn’t ask. Dom had already lost what he’d wanted. He’d lost it before he’d realized that’s what he wanted. Rome knew the feeling. He knew it well. Wasn’t the same thing, he and Brian were only friends, but he damn sure wanted the opportunity to tell Brian that again. To beat it into his fuckin’ head so he didn’t do something crazy like this again.
“If you were going to be seen, how would you do it?” Leon asked suddenly.
Mia shook her head. “What?”
“If Brian wanted to be seen, what would he do?”
“Post fliers? Make a YouTube video? Hell, I don’t know,” Rome muttered, reaching for his soda on the table.
“Race,” Dom said quietly, “and win.”
“If anyone can do it, it’s Brian,” Rome agreed. “Said he learned from the best.” Dom and Rome’s eyes met again, only with much less hostility.
“He’s still a buster,” Dom said, chuckling at his private joke.
“That buster won over a hundred races in Miami. High stakes races, too. Dangerous shit towards the end,” Rome said thoughtfully. “Got to where people wouldn’t race him anymore. It was like flushing your money down the toilet to go against Brian.”
“Told ‘ya he must have won a lot of races to earn the name Bullitt,” Leon muttered.
Rome used his soda can to point at Leon. “He told you about that?”
Leon shrugged. “Not really. When I got to Miami, a guy with an afro gave me a letter for him.”
Rome nodded. “Tej. He was friends with Brian. The hookup guy, you know? Coordinated the big races, had a real nice shop, and could get you anything you want-“ Rome paused, the empty can crumpling in his hand. “Why the hell didn’t I think of that sooner?”
“What?” Dom asked, anxious for any lead.
“A car! He’s going to need a fuckin’ car!”
Rome pulled his cell phone out his pocket. He’d bought another one as soon as he’d gotten to Mexico. Old habits die hard.
He dialed the number from memory.
A voice Rome didn’t recognize picked up on the second ring. “Jauncito’s Garage.”
Rome wasn’t a man of a lot of words. “Tej.”
Less than a minute later, a familiar voice rang through the phone. “This is Tej.”
There was a long pause. “Jesus Christ, what happened?” The anxiousness in his voice carried to everyone sitting around the table.
It was all Dom could do not to snatch the phone away from Rome and figure out what the hell was going on.
“At least we can skip the formalities since you obviously know what’s going on,” Rome mused.
“I wish I knew,” Tej groused. “First Brian and now you. What the hell is going on?”
“Where is he?” Rome asked bluntly.
“All I did was ship him a car. He asked for a fast one. He wouldn’t tell me anything else,” Tej explained.
“What kind of car?”
“A Skyline. A fuckin’ sick Skyline. Probably the fastest thing I’ve ever put together,” Tej said. “I had it shipped to Puerto de Tuxpan.”
“What else?” Rome asked, not sounding convinced.
“He told me to get the chip out, in case he was being tracked.”
Now they knew who provided Brian with the car. “Did you?”
“Hell yes, I did,” Tej spat, sounding frustrated, as if his loyalty was being questioned.
“That’s all I know, man. I wish I had something better to tell you, but you know how Bullitt is.”
“Yeah, he’s a fuckin’ idiot,” Rome muttered. “You hear anything else, you call me. Got it?”
“Got your number on the id.”
“Okay, later,” Rome said, preparing to end the call.
“Rome,” Tej said quickly.
“Find him, okay? If something happened…well, Suki would never let me hear the end of it.”
Rome smiled. He’d known Tej and Suki hooking up was just a matter of time. “Yeah, later, man.” Rome wondered if Brian realized just how many friends he had in the world. Knowing Brian, he doubted it.
“Well?” Leon prompted, beating Dom to the punch.
“Tej shipped Brian a Skyline. Apparently it’s a sick car. Real fast.”
“Where was it shipped to?” Dom asked.
“Potta de Tuxtin or something like that,” Rome replied.
“Brian wouldn’t have it sent anywhere close to where he’s heading,” Dom mused. “He’d have to know we’d come looking for him.”
Rome shook his head. “No, I don’t think he has a clue.” Three pairs of eyes shifted to Rome causing him to shrug. “No one’s ever bothered to come looking for him before.”
Dom was more determined than ever to find Brian again, and that reunion was going to consist of more punching and a hell of a lot of talking.
Rome’s phone starting ringing, jarring them out of their less than pleasurable thoughts.
“Tej,” Rome muttered, retrieving the phone and clicking the talk button. “Remember something else?”
“You’re not going to believe this,” Tej said in a rush.
“Try me,” Rome replied.
“I was flipping through the mail after we talked and –“
“The point, Tej. Get to it,” Rome growled.
“There’s a letter here. Well, not a letter, a money order for a hundred thousand dollars.”
Rome whistled. Brian was settling his debts. “Is there a note?”
“All it says it ‘more to follow,’ but it’s Brian’s handwriting all right,” Tej confirmed.
Rome stared at the ceiling for a second, releasing a shaky breath he hadn’t realized he was holding. “That’s good. That’s real good.”
“How is this good?” Tej yelled. For a second Rome pictured him yanking the comb out of his hair and sticking it back in.
“’Cause he ain’t plannin’ on dying just yet. He’s still got a debt to settle with you,” Rome said.
“I’m going to kick his ass,” Tej muttered. “I never asked him to –“
“Get in line,” Rome chuckled. “Get in line.”
“It’s postmarked Cancun,” Tej said. Rome nearly dropped the phone. Brian was in Cancun or at least had been. It was a lead. A real fuckin’ lead.
“Tej, I’m going to buy you dinner next time I see you,” Rome said happily. Mia and Leon stared at the strange newcomer to their group.
“Um...yeah. Just save a piece of Brian for me to kick, okay?” Tej said.
“Will do. Call me when you get the next envelope,” Rome said.
“What? Why do you think there’s going to be –“ The call was disconnected before Tej could finish his sentence.
Rome grinned at the expectant trio. “Pack your bags, we’re going to Cancun.”
“Great, I’ll pack sunscreen,” Leon said happily.
Brian raced to the finish line, adrenaline screaming through his veins. This had been one of his more harrowing races, dodging traffic, driving on the sidewalk, and jumping a rising drawbridge. He was getting pretty good at that.
The crowds surged around his car as he stepped out, giving them a sheepish smile and a casual wave like he’d been surprised by his win. He hadn’t been.
There’d only been two other racers tonight: Brock, a young man he’d never seen before, and a middle age guy who called himself Thomas. He’d raced Thomas once before so he was surprised when he’d pulled up to the starting line in his Ferrari. It was obvious the man had money, and if he wanted to give it away, who was Brian to refuse him?
Brian was busy receiving congratulations in a variety of forms – pats on the back, kisses on his cheek, and Lola actually kissed him and held him there for a few seconds before he pulled away, grinning. He hadn’t noticed that Thomas had pulled up beside the crowd and was wandering towards him.
“You’re making quite a name for yourself,” Thomas commented.
Brian smiled, shrugging. “I don’t race to lose.”
Thomas nodded. “Nor do I.”
Brian leaned against the side of the Skyline, his legs casually crossed at the ankles as he slipped his hands into his pockets. He’d wait this one out.
“You shouldn’t be so quick to toss your name around,” Thomas said casually, as if he was offering advice. Brian tried to place his accent because the man definitely wasn’t from Mexico.
“Yeah, and why’s that?” Brian said, tilting his chin. He might not be arrogant, but he could damn sure be cocky when he wanted to be.
Thomas didn’t seem to notice. “’Cause you’ll bring heat down on you, and I think you’re old enough to know better.” There was something else shrouded in those words, but Brian couldn’t place it. Sure, it was obvious Brian had been at this awhile. People didn’t come out and win street race after street race under a variety of conditions and terrain and not be at this for awhile.
“What’s that saying?” Brian mused. “Old enough to know better, but young enough not to care?”
Thomas smiled without any real humor. “I propose another race.”
Brian pushed himself off the car as the volume of the crowd dulled and people looked on with interest. “When and where?”
Brian nodded. “That answers the when.”
“I’ll call you with the location,” Thomas said, pulling his Blackberry out of his pocket. He raised his eyebrow, fingers posed over the keypad waiting.
“Is this your way of asking for my phone number?” Brian asked. “Why, Thomas, we barely know each other.”
Thomas’ expression remained blank. “Do you want to race or not?”
Brian leveled his gaze, his shoulders straightening marginally. “The stakes?”
“You’re American, yes?” Thomas asked.
That was a question Brian hadn’t been expecting, but he figured his ethnicity should have been obvious. Still, it was an opportunity to throw out a bit more information without being overt about it. “California born and bred.”
Thomas’ assessing gaze traveled from Brian’s black chucks to the top of his head. “You look it.”
“Thanks,” Brian said despite the knowledge that it hadn’t been meant as a compliment. “And the stakes are?”
“Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars,” Thomas said, his eyes narrowing as if he was trying to catch Brian’s reaction.
There wasn’t one save a low whistle and a few murmurs from the crowd. Brian kept his voice neutral when he said, “That’s a hell of a pot.”
The corner of Thomas’ mouth titled up. “That’s not the pot. That’s the buy-in.” When Brian didn’t respond, he continued, “Four racers and one million for the winner.”
That was a shit ton of money. Brian had done a lot of races, and high stakes races at that, but he’d never raced for anything close to that kind of money before. People would kill to win a pot like that. And there were few people around that had that kind of money to blow on a damn street race.
“Are you in?” Thomas asked.
Brian rolled his shoulders casually. “Said I was, didn’t I?”
Thomas smiled, his grin more feral then pleased. “Good. Your phone number?”
Brian rattled off his number, watching as Thomas punched it in his phone. “You know, you could just tell me where the race is going to be.”
Thomas slid his phone back into his pocket. “And give you the advantage of scoping it out first? I think not.”
“It’s an advantage you’ll have,” Brian pointed out, his tone remaining unconcerned.
“Perks of arranging the race,” Thomas said. He nodded once. “Tomorrow night, Brian O’Connor.”
It felt weird hearing his full name coming from this strange man. Sure, Brian had been tossing his name around liberally since he got here, but something about the way the guy said it seemed odd, like he was trying it on for size. Hell, Brian didn’t know anymore.
“Tomorrow night,” he said, watching as Thomas climbed into his Ferrari and pulled away from the crowd.
Brian felt a hand on his arm, and he turned sharply to find Lola watching him closely. “You shouldn’t race him,” she said quietly. He’d seen her around at most of the races, and they’d talked a few times. The conversations mostly consisted of casual flirting and cars.
“Yeah? Why’s that?” he asked, flashing a carefree grin.
She eyed the crowd, and Brian could sense her nervousness. She slipped her hand off his arm, but Brian grabbed her hand, threading their fingers together before she could pull away.
“I’m starving. Wanna get something to eat?” he asked.
She smiled briefly. “Yeah, I’d like that.” They walked around to the passenger side of the car, and he released her hand to open up the door. He closed the car door once she was settled and walked around the car, receiving a few more congratulatory slaps on his back from the remaining onlookers. There were a few comments along the lines of “you’re totally going to win, man!” and “that’s a lot of money, I hope you know what the hell you’re doing.”
He climbed into the car and started the engine, waiting as the dwindling crowd slowly parted to make room for him to pull out. “So, where do you want to go?”
She shrugged. “Whatever you feel like is fine.”
“I’m not from around here so it’s your choice. Someplace quiet, though. Things can get pretty crazy around here,” Brian said, the corner of his mouth turning up.
“The way you race, and you want someplace quiet?” Lola said, disbelieving. Brian didn’t say that he’d never been into the club scene much, and frankly a beachside bar that served good shrimp was more his pace. He chose not to think about the company he’d prefer to have.
“That’s the way I race. Not the way I live.”
Lola made a noise in her throat and pushed her long, black hair over his shoulder. For a second Mia flashed in his mind and he shoved that thought out as he pressed down on the gas pedal. “Huh. Coulda fooled me.” She pointed ahead. “Make a right at the next intersection.”
“So how long have you been here?” Lola asked. “Get into the left lane after you turn.”
“A little over a week,” Brian replied, flipping on the turn signal. “You saw my first race.”
She glanced at him. “You remember that? There were a lot of people there.”
This is the part where Brian knew he should flirt with her, tell her she stuck out from the crowd, it was damn hard to forget a face like hers, he always remembered the pretty ones, something like that. “I guess I’m good at remembering faces.”
“Take the next left. The bar’s on the right. It’s more of a local place so it shouldn’t be too crowded this late.”
“You’re really from California?” Lola asked.
“Yeah, why? Didn’t believe me?” Brian replied, giving her a teasing smile.
“I guess I was more wondering why the hell you were here,” Lola said. It went without saying that Brian was good at reading people, and he could feel the honesty in her words.
“Isn’t this where all Americans go to blow off steam and party?”
She shook her head as if she knew his response was complete bullshit. “Yeah, I guess.”
He pulled into a parking space outside a small restaurant. There were a few tables outside with a couple of people sitting around smoking and talking. Brian walked around to open the door for Lola but she was already out of the car and closing the door.
“Table or the bar?” she asked after they’d walked inside.
“Whatever you want.”
Lola sat on a stool at the bar and pulled a paper menu out of the condiment rack, passing it to Brian.
“Hi Mario,” she said, smiling as the bartender approached. “This is Brian.” They exchanged a friendly nod, and Lola starting speaking to him in Spanish while Brian scanned the menu.
Lola nudged his shoulder. “What do you want to drink?”
“A Corona would be great.”
Lola’s eyes widened and her lips turned down in distaste. “If I didn’t believe you were from California, I do now.”
“What? What’s wrong with drinking Corona?” Brian asked, trying to sound wounded. Mario rolled his eyes and muttered something about tourists before going to retrieve the requested drinks.
“No one here drinks that shit,” she said, laughing. “He only stocks it for the tourists.”
“Smart business man.”
“Yeah, I guess.” She smiled a thank you at Mario when he passed her a mixed drink and plunked a Corona down in front of Brian.
“Did you grow up around here?” Brian asked after Mario ambled away to check on other customers.
“The edge of the city, yeah,” Lola replied.
“What about racing? How’d you get started in that?” Brian asked after taking a long pull from the bottle.
“Couple of my cousins were into it and used to race all the time. I always liked going to the races. I guess it just stuck,” she said.
Brian leaned forward, resting his elbows on the bar. “Why don’t you race?”
She laughed without any real humor. “’Cause I don’t have a death wish.”
He took another couple of swallows from the bottle, raising it to catch Mario’s attention for another one. “I don’t have a death wish.”
She arched a perfectly sculpted eyebrow. “Yeah? I’ve seen you race, Brian. You race like you don’t have a thing to lose.”
His eyes darkened for a split second before he relaxed into a carefree sprawl. “Maybe I don’t.”
She shook her head. “See, that’s the weird thing about you. You put it all out there and race like your life depends on it, but it’s not about the money.”
Brian smirked, pushing the empty bottle away. “It’s always about the money.” Hell, even when he needed the money, it wasn’t about that. That was one thing Dom had never been wrong about. Racing was freedom. It was a few minutes where everything else bled into the background, where nothing else mattered but the car and the next turn.
“I’ve seen a lot of racers, Brian, and you don’t act like any of them.”
“I bet you say that to everyone,” Brian replied, keeping his voice light and teasing, pulling the conversation back under his control.
She shook her head. “Hardly.”
Brian pointed to the menu. “Did you want to order something?”
“What are you having?” Lola asked. “I’ll order it.”
“You don’t trust my Spanish?”
She grinned. “Sorry, California boy, you’ve still got a ways to go in that department, and I figure I’ll spare Mario from trying to muddle through it.”
“I was going to do the whole point at the menu thing, but since you’re offering, a chicken chalupa would be great.”
Lola ordered for both of them when Mario came by again. “You know, if you’re going to be sticking around here for long, you should brush up on your Spanish.”
Brian had picked up quite a bit since he’d been living in Mexico, and the last week he’d made a point to listen to the conversations around him and found he understood more than he didn’t. He’d taken French in high school, and boy what a waste that was given his current living situation.
“You’re not planning on sticking around, are you?” Lola asked quietly. He’d let the conversation lapse, and she was coming to her own conclusions during the lull.
“Don’t know, really.”
“You’re one of those mysterious types, aren’t you?”
He laughed, picking up the beer Mario had left for him. He’d never thought himself as mysterious before. If anything, he always figured himself to be one of those ‘what you see is what you get’ types. At least he tried to be, if he left out the whole lying about being a cop thing to infiltrate the Toretto family. If anything, the way he acted those few weeks was the closest thing to being who he really was.
“Why are you here, Brian?” Lola asked suddenly.
“Because I’m hungry and you’re good company.”
She rolled her eyes. “Why are you really here?” She wasn’t referencing the restaurant or their impromptu dinner.
He shifted so he was looking directly at her. “I’m looking for someone.”
“Oh. What’s her name?” The disappointment in her voice was obvious.
“His name is Carter Verone.” Brian watched her carefully, watching for the slightest hint of recognition. He wasn’t surprised when there wasn’t one.
She seemed thoughtful for a moment as if trying to place that name. “Never heard of him.”
“I’m not really surprised.”
Mario appeared with their food, placing the plates on the bar carefully and passing them silverware. They both offered their thanks before tucking into their meals.
“I could ask around for you,” Lola offered after wiping her mouth with a napkin.
“No, that’s not a good idea,” Brian said.
“Why? I’ve lived here all my life and if he’s –“
Brian cut across her. “No. You don’t need to be anywhere near this.” He silently berated himself for mentioning Verone’s name. The last thing he wanted to do was drag another innocent person into this fucked up situation.
“But if you’re looking for him –“
Her persistent reminded him of Mia. “He’s not a nice guy, Lola. Just leave it at that, okay?”
She glared at her salad, stabbing the tomato with a bit more force than necessary. “Why are you looking for him?”
“You realize that’s a bullshit answer, don’t you?”
Brian nodded because, hey, she was right, but he sure as hell wasn’t going to say the real reason why he wanted to find Verone.
“Do you think he’s here?”
“I don’t know. Probably not. Not yet anyway, but I think he’ll come,” Brian said, pushing his barely touched meal away. He’d lost his appetite.
“You think he’s looking for you, too.”
“Like I said, unfinished business.”
There was something about the way Brian said unfinished business that sent a chill up her spine. She didn’t know anything about him, had no clue about his past, but she figured she’d gotten a pretty good read on him earlier. He was easy going, charming, and seemed like a nice guy. Way too nice to be doing whatever it was he thought he was doing.
But the way he’d said Carter Verone screamed of history, bad history, and she knew it was something she should stay the hell away from. By all rights, she figured she should be afraid of the stranger sitting next to her. What was even scarier was that she wasn’t. At all. Her cousin was probably rolling over in his grave.
They settled into an uncomfortable silence while she finished her salad. After she pushed her plate away, she eyed Brian’s more mutilated than eaten meal. “You didn’t like it?”
“It was fine. I guess I wasn’t as hungry as I thought.” He eased off the stool to pull his wallet out of his back pocket and pulled out several bank notes.
“Brian, about the race tomorrow…” She let the thought hang in the air.
“You don’t want me to race,” Brian said, repeating her earlier words back to her.
“No, I don’t,” she said evenly.
Mario came over and collected their plates, nodding his thanks after stuffing the money Brian had left in his pocket.
“Come on, I’ll take you home,” Brian offered, starting toward the exit.
“Aren’t you going to ask me why?” she said after they’d pulled out of the parking lot.
“You can tell me if you’d like.”
She shifted in the seat so she could stare at him. “It’s not going to make a damn bit of difference, is it? You’re going to race and it doesn’t matter what I say.”
“That’s why I didn’t ask.”
Her mouth clamped closed, and she felt on the verge of being righteously pissed off. On the other hand, his honesty was refreshing. She was used to all the college frat boys that flooded into town on the weekends and during the holidays, the ones that flashed money around like it grew on trees and would say anything just to get in her pants. Despite her aggravation, she found Brian’s company to be a welcomed change from the norm.
“Thomas is bad news,” she said finally. Okay, so she couldn’t change his mind, but maybe she could make him take this race and his safety seriously. “He’s got connections all over the city, all over Mexico.”
“What kind of connections?” Brian’s voice was damn near clinical, like he was trying to piece together a puzzle that only he saw.
“I don’t know. It’s just common knowledge that he’s not on the up and up.”
“Any idea what he’s into?”
“It’s not like I’ve asked,” she said. “He just showed up one day a few months ago, all money and fancy cars. He talks about his business, but no one has a clue where he works or what he does. Despite all the tourists, the locals are a tight group, and he just doesn’t fit, you know?” She pointed to the light ahead. “Turn left.”
“That doesn’t mean he’s into anything illegal. Could be a businessman or someone that’s running from his crazy wife.”
Lola glared across the car. “I’m not an idiot, Brian. I know what crime looks like.”
Brian lifted his fingers from the wheel, a gesture of apology. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to imply you didn’t.”
The frustration was gone from her voice when she said, “He’s not going to let you win.”
She could hear the indifference in his voice when he said, “We’ll see.”
“I’m serious. You won’t win. It’s doesn’t matter how good of a racer you are, you’re not going to win.” When he didn’t respond, she slumped back in the seat. “It’s the house with the yellow shutters.”
Brian didn’t pull into the driveway; instead he kept the car idling in front of her home. “Thanks for dinner, Brian.” She already had the door open.
“You’re welcome.” He glanced out the driver’s side window before turning back to face her. “I’m sorry I wasn’t better company.”
Lola shook her head, a sad smile tugging on the corners of her corner. “No, you were fine.” She got out of the car, one hand on the door as she leaned down to say goodbye. What came out was something entirely different. “What are you going to do if you do find him? Once this is over?”
Brian sighed, a low even sound. “I really don’t know.”
“Maybe you should think about that,” Lola said.
His gaze shifted to the window again. “Yeah.”
“Good luck tomorrow.”
When he turned his head, his expression had changed, his eyes softer. “Thanks, Lola. I’ll see you around.”
She closed the door on her goodbye and walked up the driveway without looking back. The car didn’t pull away until after she closed the front door.
Brian took his time driving back to his motel room, the city lights blurring over him as he drove down the nearly empty street. Dinner had been nice even if it was more of a fact finding mission than anything else. All the warnings that Lola had given him about Thomas and her plea that he didn’t race only strengthened his resolve. If he was going to get his name out there, if he wanted to be seen, it needed to be by the right people.
With a million dollars as the winning pot, that was guaranteed to turn some heads. Considering the type of car he’d seen Thomas drive, the man liked people to notice. Hopefully he’d get the right people to notice this race.
Brian had no delusions of grandeur; it wasn’t going to be an easy win. The odds were certainly not in his favor, especially if Thomas had home field advantage. Brian had no doubt if by some miracle he did win, Thomas wouldn’t have someone there waiting to blow his brains out to take the money back.
All in all, it was more par for the course than anything else. Carter Verone wasn’t the only bad guy Brian had taken down. He’d been a still wet behind the ears beat cop when he’d been assigned to go undercover to infiltrate the Toretto family. He remembered Tanner’s look of pride when he looked over the notes Brian had drawn up after reviewing the case file. “Don’t fuck this up, kid,” Tanner had mumbled, bumping his shoulder harder than necessary as he walked down the hall towards his office.
The FBI was a different game entirely, but Brian had changed, matured. He took down a murderer in LA a couple of months before he got the call from Letty. He remembered the flash of silver as the guy tried to pull the gun from the waistband of his jeans. In the Academy they train you to shoot until the target has been compromised, until the target stops moving, which is why most cops can’t tell you how many shots they got off in the heat of the moment. Brian only shot once because that was all it took.
The FBI had been his dream job for most of his life. By some miracle, he actually made it there. Despite the piles of paperwork and the rampant bureaucracy, that wasn’t why he hated it. He just never felt like he belonged there. Sure, he put on the suit, carried a gun and had the fancy badge, but it wasn’t him. Every time he stepped into the federal building, he felt like he screamed fraud. His heart wasn’t in it.
He parked on the far side of the parking lot, pulling his winnings out of the glove box and sliding the money discreetly into his pocket before locking up the Skyline. He checked his door carefully before sliding in the key and going inside. Nothing was out of place in the sparsely decorated room.
Sliding into the chair, he propped his legs up on the side of the bed. His mind kept going back to the last question Lola asked him: “What are you going to do if you do find him? Once this is over?”
If he lived that long, he was really going to have to think about that.